Marriage is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are many considerations that go into actually following through with saying ‘yes.’ How will the bills be handled? Where will the partners live and how will they dispose of individual real property? Whose name will be on the utility bills? Are children in the future, and if so how many? These are just a few considerations that come into play when marriage enters the picture. How couples approach answering them could play a key role in how successful a marriage ultimately is.
While every marriage is different and has its own unique challenges, working together to meet those challenges greatly increases the chance that you will be able to overcome them. As times change, so does the way in which people approach doing just that. For some individuals, a marriage plan might be the answer they are looking for when it comes to tackling the important issues that can be responsible for a marriage’s ultimate success.
What is a Marriage Plan?
A marriage plan is essentially an agreement between perspective spouses as to how they will approach their marriage.
A marriage plan allows couples to articulate their expectations for the marriage. While couples have likely discussed important aspects of the marriage prior to popping the question, like whether each spouse wants to have children, the discussion often stops there. A marriage plan allows each individual to explore these types of questions more deeply. For instance, if both individuals are on the same page about having children, a marriage plan can allow each person to lay out expectations regarding children. How many kids do the individuals want? Is there a career milestone one or both want to meet before having kids? How will the married couple save for college?
By addressing these issues early on, both individuals can express their own unique needs and desires in a meaningful way that allows the other partner to have real expectations for the future of the marriage. While it is certainly likely that individuals will change their minds about many aspects that can be covered in a marriage plan as circumstances within the marriage dictate, these plans explore important topics and really help establish a framework for how to prioritize throughout the various stages of a marriage and can help avoid or address conflict down the road.
Does a Prenuptial Agreement do the Same Thing?
Prenuptial agreements can certainly play an important role in a marriage plan, but they tend to focus on the financial aspects of a divorce more than anything else. Typically, prenuptial agreements cover how assets will be divided in case of divorce. They can also set forth terms and conditions regarding alimony, division of marital debt, and personal property rights. While these are certainly important considerations, prenuptial agreements leave many questions unanswered.
Prenuptial agreements cannot require a person to have children nor can they be used to modify state guidelines for child support. They cannot be used to induce a person to commit illegal acts and they cannot unfairly favor the rights of one spouse to the detriment of the other. That being said, prenuptial agreements often get a bad reputation. In fact, prenuptial agreements can offer couples a source of security in a marriage because when conflict arises, less time needs to be spent on worrying about a worst-case scenario since these agreements often provide a framework for just that.
What if I Change My Mind?
It is virtually impossible to predict exactly where you will be and how you will feel one year from now, let alone five years or 10 years down the line. Priorities will shift, circumstances will change, and with them so will your personal objectives as well as those that you share with your spouse.
This is another major difference between prenuptial agreements and a marriage plan. Marriage plans have many components and can be adapted. The goal of a marriage plan is simply to lay out important goals, needs, and overall objectives as they relate to the marriage. While particular legal agreements that may become part of your marriage plan could be binding, the marriage plan overall is not.
Additionally, by incorporating aspects of prenuptial agreements and other legal agreements into your marriage plan, you can avoid the pitfall of broadly applied divorce laws that may not meet your needs if the time comes to consider divorce. Marriage plans can serve as important reminders of expectations, but they can also alleviate some of the heavy financial and emotional costs of divorce if a divorce is unavoidable.
How can a Lawyer Help?
There are many generic marriage plans available on the internet or form other sources. The problem with these generic plans is that they do not address your specific needs as a person or as a married couple. Likewise, generic forms that may be a part of a comprehensive marriage plan are also available but do not always cover all of your bases. Often, these generic approaches fail to consider changes in federal and state laws that could have a direct impact on your marriage as well as the agreement itself. When that happens, important agreements could be invalidated in part or in whole by a court.
An experienced divorce attorney can be invaluable in planning important documents and agreements related to your marriage. Family law is complex and filled with nuances that can be easily overlooked and doing so can have a significant impact on your rights now as well as into the future. If you have questions about the legal aspects of a marriage plan or other marital agreements, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation and find out more information about how a dynamic and thorough approach to marriage can play a role in your success.